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October 13, 2011

How to Fight This War

Patricia A. Kelly

On September 30, it was reported that the Yemeni cleric, Anwar al Awlaki was killed in a drone strike by the U.S. military.


Awlaki was a U.S. citizen by accident, having been born in New Mexico in 1971 when his father was here as a university student. He returned to Yemen at age seven, coming back to the U.S. only for his own college education in early adulthood.


Not the subject of this column, but relevant nonetheless, is the question of why this man was ever a citizen, just as the children of pregnant illegal immigrants who make it across the U.S. border in time to give birth are citizens. He was certainly never an American.


He was killed by a drone strike, along with another citizen, 25-year-old Samir Khan, an anti-American propagandist who advocated for attacks against the U.S on an al Qaeda-associated website.


A controversy has arisen over whether these killings were summary executions without trial, or acts of war. Was it illegal, or a violation of their constitutional rights to kill these men? Khan, reportedly, just happened to be with Mr. Awlaki, so was collateral damage. His killing hasn’t been called into question as it was accidental, no matter how much the world may benefit from his death.


The question that determines legality is whether we are in an armed conflict, or an international police action. If it is an armed conflict, the nationality of the target doesn’t matter, and this killing does not violate U.S. law.


President George W. Bush was the first to call the conflict a war on terror. President Barack Obama does not use the term, although he has created a smaller, intelligence and drone-driven war with significant success, including the successful attack on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.


Not only are many concerned about directly killing an American citizen off of the battlefield, there are many references to drone attacks as state sponsored assassinations, because they don’t happen on a battlefield. Define battlefield.


First of all, we are in a war, and it’s okay to kill an American citizen who has joined another army. Al Qaeda is another army. It was thought to be okay to kill 300,000 American citizens during the Civil War, and no American soldier should hold fire if he ever sees an American fighting in an enemy line, not that we have them much anymore.


Drone strikes are perfect examples of what we should be doing, and should have done from the time of the September 11 attacks, rather than going to war in Iraq or Afghanistan. In the new world of technology advanced enough to pinpoint targets, this is the war we should be fighting.


In Iraq, approximately 100,000 civilians have been killed since the war began in 2003. In Afghanistan, the number listed is 7,700 from 2006, when counting started. Both numbers are probably low, since reporting in times of chaos is not the best.


Thousands of foreign troops, including U.S. troops, have also been killed in both wars. A 2010 report from the New America Foundation states that 1,200 people had been killed in drone strikes, with about 700 confirmed militant fighters among the dead. Thirty-two percent of the 1,200, or about 500, were civilian casualties, quite avoidable if those people refused to hang out with terrorists.


The bang for the buck in this type of operation is awesome. Consider the billions of dollars in equipment and local infrastructure lost in war zones. Consider the suffering of innocent civilians without clean water of even houses. Knowing U.S. history, consider the expense to American taxpayers, who will be asked to pay for a lot of repairs and rebuilding.


Muslim teaching would agree with drone strikes as well, as the rules of war taught by Muhammad stated that fighting was only allowed between actual enemies, and that no innocents, or even trees or houses should be hurt.


It’s wonderful when a war plan follows the religious beliefs of the enemy, as well as saving thousands of lives along with roads, bridges, sewer and water lines, etc. We should be publicizing this.


America should build a sophisticated and powerful force of warriors who can fight with drones and other tools of war that focus on actual enemies. This would keep most of our military at home and save military and civilian lives, infrastructure and money. It’s the only way to win this war.


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